A client friend of mine, Jessica, has been ambitious for as long as she can remember. When she was just 10 years old, she started a habit of waking up at 5AM every morning. During high school, she used this extra time in the mornings to work out and catch up on her schoolwork. Graduating at the top of her class, she got into every college she applied to. With full academic scholarships. This same drive helped her climb the corporate ladder. Over the last 10 years, Jessica, now 45, has held a number of VP level positions at large LA based creative agencies.
Jessica isn’t quite sure what the source is of her fierce ambition. She knows that her parents both had a very strong work ethic and were go-getters, but Jessica thinks there must be something else. She thinks that something is ingrained in her personality that makes her always strive for more.
Ambition has been defined as an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, such as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment. Originally derived from the Latin “ambitio,” ambition initially meant literally 'a going around', especially of candidates for office in Rome soliciting votes.
Today it can be viewed as striving for some kind of achievement or distinction. It involves both desiring the achievement and having the determination and motivation to get it, even in the face of failure.
So is Ambition a learned trait or something we are just born with? Can we learn to be more ambitious? Is Ambition Good or Bad?
Different cultures have different ideas of Ambition. Western cultures view Ambition as a key to business success but others see it as negative. Some view Ambitious people as selfish and never satisfied because they always want more.
The components of what makes a person Ambitious are hard to exactly pin down but there are a few contributing factors.
· Self-esteem. Studies have seen that those with higher self esteem are more ambitious than those with low self-esteem. When you have more self-esteem, you are more ambitious because you think you can do things. Whether or not you can is less important than your idea that you believe you can achieve something.
· Background. Our childhood experiences are also important factors in ambitious. Kids with successful, ambitious parents or grandparents often become ambitious too. Success is simply expected of some children.
· Personality. People who have high degrees of conscientiousness, and who are extroverted, are more likely to have Ambition. This could be due to extroverts liking the external approval which could contribute to their drive.
Research has shown that Ambitious people are likely to have higher levels of education and income, but they are also more likely to experience anxiety. Ambition tends to put expectations in a person’s mind, so they could become afraid to fail.
Jessica thinks that she is just goal oriented. “Without a goal, I don’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It’s my goals that keep me going.”
So maybe then, there is no right or wrong when it comes to ambition.
I say that we commit to learning and let’s see where that takes us. Let’s Command Joy by facing life with our eyes and ears open to the possibilities that might be just around the corner. That’s enough ambition, to me.